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Tourism on the rise in the Santa Maria Valley

Tourism is on the rise in the Santa Maria Valley.

“It’s been great,” said Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites general manager Susan Garcia. “It’s been steady. We’re just coming off our busy season and things for the fall look very promising. A lot of new stuff going in Santa Maria. We’ve had new tourists coming through that have never stopped here before.”

A report detailing a rise in tourism will be delivered Tuesday night at Santa Maria City Council.

The Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce will present council members with its 2017-18 year-end annual report.

A look at the numbers in the report show that more tourists are making Santa Maria a destination on the rise.

According to metrics detailed in the Chamber’s online summary, Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) for area hotels and motels totaled $3,524,150 for the last fiscal year. It represents a 2 percent increase from last year’s total.

In addition, occupant rates are up .4 percent, average daily rates increased 2.5 percent and total revenue growth rose 3 percent.

“Occupancies are up, so it’s definitely encouraging. We’re getting some attention finally here in Santa Maria.” said Garcia. “The formation of the Tourism Marketing District has brought in some great tax dollars to be able to market the city.”

Created in 2016, the Tourism Marketing District has provided the city with an aggressive marketing campaign aimed at attracting visitors from outside the Central Coast.

“We have been marketing down south,” said Radisson Hotel general manager Jean-Luc Garon. “We have been marketing in Bakersfield and Fresno area. We don’t do any marketing in town because it’s to bring people to the Santa Maria Valley and stay in the hotels.”

Garon serves as chairman of the Santa Maria Tourism Marketing District Advisory Committee.

Like Garcia, who also serves on the committee, he is encouraged by the initial success of the new marketing effort.

“So far, I think it’s working very well,” said Garon. “We have been getting a lot of writing about the Santa Maria Valley.”

Both Garon and Garcia say the city has been featured in a wide variety of online and print publications over the past year, such as the Travel Channel and Visit California.

In addition, the district also has spent money on paid advertisements and other forms of advertising.

There is also an extensive new Visit Santa Maria website that details many of the popular attractions and hospitality-related businesses in the area.

“Very interactive with our Facebook and Instagram as well, so huge on social media,” said Garcia. “We do some print. We work with writers that come to the area, so it’s a little bit of everything.”

Funding for the Tourism Marketing District is comes through a 2 percent tax on room stays and totals more than $500,000 annually.

Garon said the marketing effort is to really give the area an identity, especially for people who are from out-of-the-area and are unfamiliar with it.

While it’s still relatively new, the marketing campaing is already showing quick results.

“People know where the Santa Maria Valley is,” Garon said. “You used to say I’m from the Santa Maria Valley. Where is it? Now you don’t have to explain. They already know.”

According to Garcia, the district has big plans for the future. She said work is underway to create a new annual marquee event.

“We’re looking at trying to work on an event that will bring people from the outside the area, not necessarily something local that we’re already doing, which is great, but it’s nice to those heads and beds and bring more tax dollars and revenue and to those local pocket’s as well,” said Garcia.

Details on the new event, such as the theme or what it would center around, are being kept secret. Garcia did mention that if everything go well, the new event could debut as early as next year.

In addition to a report from the Tourism Marketing District, city council will also receive a pretension from Economic Development Commission and the Santa Barbara County Energy Watch Partnership and Recycling Market Development Zone.

For more information on the presentation, visit the report on the City of Santa Maria council agenda report.

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